Sunday, December 19, 2010

Distance, Intimacy, Exposure

Language refers to, but cannot contain, unspoken understandings.  It cannot kiss, it does not make eye contact.  Without the immediacy of exposure, a new kind of intimacy arises, one that permits a different kind of understanding: distance frees the creative mind by removing it from the immediacy of others.

If we trail back to my last post: between me and my cats, a million unspoken understandings.  Between me and the humans I love, the same; but here there is a difference.  My human relationships are never uncomplicated existential truths based upon unspoken understandings.  There is a constant need to clarify meaning, and what is true on one occasion may easily be false or very differently applied on another. These human relationships are complicated card houses built on an intricate system of construction, recognition, and validation.  My brain struggles, (as it appears to me) against reason, to understand these constructs and their necessity.  Humans expect to be defined as much by "how" as by "who": the pretense of our social identities, of many-layered associations between objects and ideological systems, makes the understanding of humans and their choosings very difficult.

It is impossible to untangle humans from their language...but it is possible to grab hold of their moments when they are mediated through text.  In writing, all of the relationships, structures of understanding, and references are exposed to the analytic capacity of the reader, who can give off no unintentional signs to the speaker which might change the mode or context of meaning.  Through distance, intimacy with the speaker becomes possible.  Through distance, there is no immediate exposure to scrutiny, paranoia, anxiety, confusion, or sensory inundation.

Of course, the reader may still choose intimacy with text over intimacy with the author.  This is accomplished by the way that we extract meaning from relations; as soon as the words are removed from the speaker's context and placed within the reader's frame of reference, they take on a new life.  A beautiful sunrise, the morning of one human's story, reminds another of the death of a friend, or a place they'd rather not revisit.

Have I reversed myself here?  Is it possible to speak to a human the same way as cat, who does not struggle  to choose from a thousand possible meanings before crying at her bowl?  And if it were, would the majority of us wish it to be so?  What part of us lives in this choosing?

This brings me back to my original point: language refers to, but cannot contain, unspoken understandings.  Language does not experience, but references our experiences.  Its metamorphoses of meanings translate and refract those of human beings, allowing intimacy through distance, exposing the struggle of humans to construct meaningful identities without anything solid to hold onto.

The unspoken understanding, the empathy of text, resides in its referential nature; it allows us to connect with the generative processes of construction.  In this way, we can connect to the shared experience of being under construction, of trying to make and share meaning among creatures who are constantly overexposed (and often in western culture simultaneously isolated).  Thus our unspoken understanding is carried by speech, hidden in the struggle to find truth and make truth at the same time.

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